x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Boy to man, desert to city

Hamad Kassab believes the same values that shaped the capital have also made his young boat-building business a success.

Hamad Kassab Bachi decided to start Emocean Marine in 2009 after developing an advertising business from a staff of four to 84.
Hamad Kassab Bachi decided to start Emocean Marine in 2009 after developing an advertising business from a staff of four to 84.

ABU DHABI // Hamad Kassab Bachi says his business is a reflection of the city he grew up in.

Born here in 1973, Mr Bachi has seen the capital grow up around him, changing from a sparse collection of temporary housing on sand to a modern metropolis of glass and steel.

The values that brought that together - passion, commitment and perseverance or what he calls the Abu Dhabi approach - have made his two-year-old shipbuilding business, Emocean Marine, successful, he said.

"My upbringing is similar to everyone else here: you grow up with friends from Iraq, Lebanon, Vietnam and the UK, to name a few, and everywhere else in the world," he said. "I went to the same school as my driver's kids and wore the same uniforms and ate the same food. Growing up here I did not have that concept of living in a rich neighbourhood means I have to go to a rich school, like in other parts of the world."

His father originally came to the UAE in 1967 to open the Dubai office of Armstrong Contracting, a British firm.

"Upon his arrival at Abu Dhabi airport, he ran into a Dhibiani [a pre-union Emirati from Abu Dhabi] acquaintance who offered to help him set up a business and he stayed in the city since," he said.

Like the city, his father's business started small but grew quickly. His food-supply firm soon expanded into contracting, technology and telecommunications.

"Our home was a house on Hamdan Street - yes, a house - there were no buildings. Just villas and houses were scattered across the beaches then," he said.

Mr Bachi's love for boats stemmed from his father's enthusiasm and adventurous spirit, he explained.

"Back then, we did not have malls or cinemas. Cartoons only came on TV from 4pm to 4.30pm every day. So we fell in love with the sea and going out on the boat," he said.

His father purchased his first boat in 1977, when Mr Bachi was four years old. Since then, he has spent almost every weekend out on the water.

"By age seven I became a skilled boat driver, and with my mother and father we navigated across the many channels and lagoons around Abu Dhabi," he said.

Abu Dhabi has the most boat-friendly waters in the world, he said, based on the proximity of the islands surrounding it and the abundance of channels and lagoons to navigate.

"The weather also is perfect for boaters, nine months of great weather if not 10," he said. "The UAE tradition for over 100 years in boat building has always been the use of state-of-the-art materials to create the best possible vehicle for the job, which was wood and sails then.

"We incorporated the ethos of UAE heritage and brought Italian style, American technical expertise along with Emirati conceptualisation, which resulted in what we have."

After developing an advertising business in 1998 from four employees to 84, Mr Bachi decided to pursue his passion for boats. So he started a company that built them.

"After my father's business grew with the city and my business grew, I realised that out here, anyone can do spectacular things," he said.

Emocean Marine was launched in March 2009. Its first boat, the Voodoo 27, was designed and built for the Abu Dhabi Yacht Show.

"Everything comes unexpectedly in Abu Dhabi - this is what you learn when you land here," he said.

amustafa@thenational.ae